Walter Clayton Jr. withdraws from 2024 NBA Draft, returns to Florida Gators for senior season

By Staff
May 27, 2024
Walter Clayton Jr. withdraws from 2024 NBA Draft, returns to Florida Gators for senior season

Image Credit: NCAA

Two of Florida Gators basketball’s top players from the 2023-24 season, who had collegiate eligibility still remaining, decided to try their hands at becoming professionals last month. Both of them have decided to return to the program in what will be a huge boon for head coach Todd Golden.

Just days after Will Richard decided that he will play his senior season with the Gators, fellow junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. has chosen to do the same, according to multiple reports. Clayton tested the draft waters but, like Richard, was not invited to the 2024 NBA Combine.

Clayton was the straw that stirred the drink for Florida last season, averaging a career-high 17.6 points per game. His shooting, rebounding and assist totals were down from the year prior, but he was far more consistent on a game-by-game basis. Clayton almost single-handedly willed UF over Colorado in the 2024 NCAA Tournament, posting a career-high 33 points, and he scored 20+ points in nine of his final 15 games.

Listed as the No. 36 prospect available by and Bleacher Report at the time he declared for the draft, Clayton was projected to either be selected late in the second round or go undrafted.

When Clayton entered the draft process, he made it clear that a decision to return to college would lead to him playing nowhere else “other than the University of Florida.”

Richard, who made his decision earlier this week, averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 boards per game last season. He also showed out against CU scoring 15 points on 3 of 6 shooting from downtown, though he only posted single-digit scoring totals in six of the season’s final 14 games.

Both players will return to a Gators team that will look significantly different from the one they left as a trio of four-star talents — FAU guard Alijah Martin, Chattanooga forward Sam Alexis and Washington State center Rueben Chinyelu — are joining Florida out of the transfer portal.

With Clayton and Richard returning, Martin will likely fill the role exiting transfer Riley Kugel played a season ago. He may be asked to serve as more of a floor general given the graduation of point guard Zyon Pullin. Chinyelu and Alexis will be part of the effort to make up for the loss of F Tyrese Samuel.

Starting center Micah Handlogten, who will be a junior next season, is unlikely to be cleared at the start of the season and could miss a significant period of time after suffering a nasty leg injury during the 2024 SEC Tournament. Chinyelu and Alexis will also fill in for him to start the campaign.

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